Last week, we brought you the first of our cheat sheets to help you stay on top of the most likely plays your Paladin opponent can make to frustrate the development of the board. Today, we're turning our attention to the always popular Mage.
For the purposes of keeping this guide as concise and useful as possible in the heat of battle, we've not included every single card that you'll find in the current metagame. Rather, we've included only the key cards which signify a specific deck archetype – Mechwarper being a prime example of a Mech Mage "tell". The focus, as always, remains on those cards that can hamper your game-plan, with a specific emphasis on the opponent's removal options.
With that out of the way, here's a look at the most powerful spells, tricks and traps in the Mage's evergreen arsenal, and what you need to be aware of at each stage of the game.
Arcane Missiles - Like Arcane Explosion (see below), Arcane Missiles is rarely seen these days but does represent a cheap RNG-fuelled removal spell.
Mana Wyrm – Frequently used in conjunction with The Coin to give the Wyrm an early boost. Cards like Mirror Image can be used to both bump up the Wyrm, and protect it.
Frostbolt - a very common removal spell that will kill your opening gambit before it's even got off the ground.
Arcane Explosion – AWOL from all but the most budget-orientated decks these days, this card is nevertheless a part of the Mage's arsenal.
Flamecannon – The Mage will likely wait for a meatier target than that you'll put down on Turn 2, but be aware that this is a brewing threat nevertheless.
Mechwarper – This character allows the Mage to start summoning cheaper Mech minions. Remove it as soon as you see it, and be prepared for a classic Mech Mage fight.
The Mage is capable of playing all of the Hero's Secrets from Turn 3 onwards, although Mad Scientist is popularly used for this purpose.
Frost Nova – This card is typically used later on in the match, and in conjunction with Doomsayer.
Kirin Tor Mage – You are playing a Secrets Mage if you see this card played on Turn 3.
Polymorph – The Mage's strongest hard removal spell, capable of humbling even the most powerful of minions.
Frostbolt combined with a pair of Ice Lances can wreck you for 11 points of damage. Most commonly used later in the game as a finishing move.
Fireball – Commonly used to outright remove stubborn minions in the mid-game, or to assist a friendly minion in trading. Also good extra reach for the Mage as they try to get over the finishing line.
Goblin Blastmage – Popular with the Mech-style Mage, and for obvious removal reasons.
Water Elemental – An old favourite of the Mage's that can severely lock you down if your success is dependant on weapon usage.
Blizzard – Most commonly seen in the Freeze Mage deck, but a threat to be aware of nevertheless. Popularly used in conjunction with Doomsayer.
Flamestrike – Always assume the Mage can pull this annoying card out of their hand when you least want them to. It's often worth trading minions the turn before this can be played, so the Mage has nothing left on the board after making use of this powerful board-sweeper.
Archmage Antonidas – Common in Mech Mage decks. Antonidas will be fed with the Spare Parts the Mage picked up from earlier contraptions. This can leave the Mage with lots of Fireballs to either clear your board with – or your face.
Frost Nova / Doomsayer – Another board wipe if you lack the means to kill Doomsayer.
Dr. Boom – While we hesitate to include this card due to its meta-relevance, it's rare to encounter a deck that doesn't include this card in 2015. Another reminder of the doctor's powerful presence can do no harm at all.
Pyroblast - More commonly seen in Arena these days, Pyroblast is nevertheless an important card to be aware of, particularly if the Mage seems keen on pinging you down to ten health.